Joshua Cohen’s numbers, rest in peace James Salter, and more



Novelist Joshua Cohen is interviewed at Bomb. In the interview conducted by Dan Duray, Cohen discusses some of the numbers behind Book of Numbers:

So let me just state for the record: There are an even number of paragraphs in every section of the book. There are an even number of sentences in every paragraph. It’s all about the evens. After all, the name of the company is Tetration. Hyper-4 …

Principal’s clauses are formed, and deformed, by Sanskrit prosody—which itself is a basis of binary notation. I counted words, I counted syllables. I drove myself crazy. All to ensure this flatness of affect. Or, more accurately, all to ensure a surface that was perfectly flat until the logic of the system threw a kink into it—until the logic destroyed what it had made—what it had made to be perfect, unimpeachable.

The result according to a New York Times review: “reads as if Philip Roth’s work were fired into David Foster Wallace’s inside the Hadron particle collider.”

Two things often said about James Salter who passed last week at 90 is that he was a writer’s writer and that his work did not sell well. Here is Vulture making those points. Among Salter’s best books are two later ones: the memoir Burning the Days (1997) and the novel All That Is (2013). Both books in the end are about the interlocked subjects of time and love. From near the conclusion of All That Is:

He wondered then, as he often did, how much life remained for him. He was certain of only one thing, whatever was to come was the same for everyone who had ever lived. He would go where they all had gone and—it was difficult to believe—all he had known would go with him, the war, Mr. Kindrigen and the pouring coffee, London those first days, the lunch with Christine, her gorgeous body like a separate entity, names, houses, the sea, all he had known and things he had never known but were nevertheless, things of his time, all the years….The first voice he ever knew, his mother’s, was beyond memory, but he could recall the bliss of being close to her as a child. He could remember his first schoolmates, the names of everyone, the classrooms, the teachers, the details of his own room at home—the life beyond reckoning, the life that been opened to him and that he had owned (289).

Also lost this weekend was the great music scholar and composer Gunther Schuller.

Billboard looks at the latest turmoil involving nominating committees for Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. A series of members were allegedly dismissed and the worry seems to be that older acts will lose out as a result.

The new Oxford Professor of Poetry has been elected. And, I’m sad it is not A. E. Stallings who would have been the first woman as well as the first American. •

Richard Abowitz is the editor of The Smart Set. Get in touch at


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